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Sky Analogue


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UK Analogue switch-off timetable

Ofcom has issued a proposed timetable for switching off analogue TV transmissions in the UK. Rather than go for a 'bigbang' approach, transmissions would cease on a region-by-region basis. If the proposals are accepted by the government, the first switch-offs could be in the Border, West Country and HTV Wales regions within three years (see specific details in box).

2008: Border, West Country and HTV regions

2009: Granada, Grampian, Scottish TV and HTV West regions

2010: Central, Anglia and Yorkshire regions

2011: Meridian, Carlton/LWT, Tyne Tees and Ulster regions

2012: Channel Islands

Once analogue is switched off you will need either Freeview receivers or Satellite receivers in order to watch UK TV (unless you are in an area supplied by a cable TV operator). Many new TV sets already have a receiver built-in. Note that you do not have to subscribe to Sky in order to watch UK TV programmes. Click here for more info.

According to Ofcom digital terrestrial transmissions at present reach 73 per cent of UK households and, because the UHF spectrum is so crowded, it will not be possible to extend DIT coverage significantly beyond this level without switching off the analogue transmissions. Planning for the digital switchover assumes that three of the frequencies currently used by the analogue terrestrial services available nationally (BBCI, BBC2, FfY and Channel 4) will be reused for the three digital public-service multiplexes. These are expected to be multiplexes 1 and B (used by the BBC) and multiplex 2 (used by Digital 3 and 4, an ITV Channel 4 joint venture). According to a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on BBC investment in Freeview, following the switch-off MT coverage could be increased to 99.7 per cent of UK households,

while 37 per cent would be able to receive the signals using a settop aerial. The report queries the latter BBC belief however, and suggests that field trials should be carried out urgently.

Ofcom says that to give remaining analogue viewers sufficient time to make the switch, and to ensure that all the transmitters in a region are converted, a period of six months should be allowed for the conversion in each region. The transition process would begin with one analogue service being replaced by a digital multiplex that would also carry a number of other public-service channels. This multiplex would be broadcast throughout the region, via all main transmitters and relays, with sufficient power to replicate the analogue coverage throughout the region. The other analogue services would continue to be transmitted, giving the remaining analogue-only viewers several months in which to make arrangements for watching digital TV via either terrestrial, satellite or cable services.

At the end of the transition period the remaining PSB digital multiplexes would move to their new high-coverage assignments and the remaining analogue transmissions in the region would cease. At this point the three commercial multiplexes would also move to new highpower frequencies at the sites they intend to adopt. The suggested regional analogue switch-off timetable is as shown in the table.

Ofcom adds that three technical factors have determined the suggested regional sequence for the switchover. First, interference management. The planners have considered carefully how to arrange the sequence so as to minimise the impact that any one region being converted will have on analogue and digital viewers in an adjacent region. The risk of interference between transmission sites in neighbouring regions places a constraint on the degree of freedom with respect to the regional order.

Secondly there are infrastructure constraints. In developing the switch-off order it was necessary to ensure that the number of transmitters which have to be converted is approximately the same for each year of the switchover period. This would reduce the potential problems that could arise as a result of shortages of relevant resources and thus the risk of delay in implementing the switchover. Similar consideration has been given to the needs of manufacturers, platform operators and retailers.

The other factor is international spectrum negotiations. International considerations (interference etc.) add a further degree of complexity to the planning. The aim is to minimise any risk that the switchover process might be affected by the international negotiations currently underway for a Europewide digital switchover. These negotiations are due to be completed in 2006.

Soon after Ofcom's announcement, Sony revealed that from now on all its TV sets with screen sizes of more than 26in. will be integrated digital TVs.

Copyright ©2004 SatCure
Updated May 23, 1999
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